ECC basketball tournaments need to be logistical ... there's nothing unfair about that

The residual effect of the recent announcement between the Eastern Connecticut Conference and Mohegan Sun, an agreement sending the boys’ basketball tournament championship games to Neon Uncasville next month, has produced mad props and bon mots from across the region and state. The partnership has elevated the league’s status and lent more legitimacy to our region’s (and state’s) high school sports revolution.

Ah, but good deeds, as we’ve learned, don’t necessarily go unpunished.

Logistical issues precluded ECC officials from organizing a boys’/girls’ doubleheader, leaving the ECC girls’ tournament to be played at Norwich Free Academy, a nice enough gym, but minus the cachet of Mohegan. More than one girls’ coach within the conference has looked disdainfully on the decision, citing what they perceive as inherent unfairness.

Why are the boys getting something the girls aren’t?

I get their point … to a point. History suggests that the male gland often benefits from such prosperities. We need to be mindful inequity exists and vigilant to protect against it.

However, the perception of unfairness does not provide a universal crutch, a one-argument-fits-all mindset every time circumstances appear inequitable. As Euripides once wrote, “In case of dissension, never dare to judge till you've heard the other side.”

The logistical issue facing the ECC: Mohegan Sun provided the ECC one open night. And by the time the boys’ conference championship game is played on Feb. 26, the girls’ state tournament will be underway. Playdowns begin Feb. 21. Hence, there is no path to a girls’/boys’ doubleheader. Their seasons will be in different places.

It does invite the question, though, about the potential for future seasons. I sent the following inquiry to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state’s governing body for high school athletics: Given that the boys’ and girls’ state championship games are played the same weekend at Mohegan Sun, why do we stagger start dates both at the beginning of the season — the girls begin a week earlier — and for the state tournament? If they end at the same time, why can’t they begin at the same time, thus allowing more conferences a Mohegan Sun-like opportunity for both genders?

“There are a few parts to the answer,” CIAC spokesperson Joel Cookson said in an email earlier this week. “The girls’ regular season ends sooner and starts sooner at the request of schools. They like being able to have almost a week of practice for the girls to do tryouts and get started without having to share the gym with the boys’ team.”

Cookson continued, “Having the tournaments staggered, particularly in the early rounds, gives the tournament directors flexibility if there are issues with weather, sites, and in terms of not stretching the pool of available high-quality officials, which might happen if the boys’ and girls’ tournaments ran completely concurrently.

“As always,” Cookson wrote, “this is something the girls’ basketball committee would have the ability to change if they desired, but for the time being, they like the structure as is.”

Seems a reasonable argument. But if some girls’ coaches in the ECC truly want to incorporate Mohegan Sun into the process, they need to address the state girls’ basketball committee to change the format, not holler about the unfairness of it all. It is not unfair. It is the byproduct of a staggered tournament schedule. Lest we forget that one-size-fits-all arguments may be all the rage, but ought to have a basis in fact.

Remember, too, that Mohegan Sun, while a wonderful community partner, didn’t become a multi-million dollar entity without good business sense. They saw people turned away at last year’s boys’ championship game. They know the boys’ tournament made the ECC more than $13,000 in 2018. The girls’ tournament did not come close to that number. And so while girls’ basketball has increasing popularity, it hasn’t reached the boys’ level yet.

My guess is that some people out there would rather the boys’ tournament remain at Waterford if the girls can’t be afforded the same opportunity at Mohegan. Free country.

To me, it reeks of pettiness.

Shouldn’t we strive to be better than that?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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